Fish and Game releases memo on Cook Inlet escapement goals

The information is intended to be used during a board work session next year

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game last week released a memorandum detailing their review of escapement goals for fish in the Upper Cook Inlet.

This information is intended to be used during a board work session next year, and comes weeks after the king salmon sport fishery and the east side setnet fishery were closed by preseason emergency orders in response to a projected king salmon run that falls below the optimal escapement goals set by the board.

The memorandums describe sustainable escapement goals, not optimal escapement goals. The difference is that the former is set by the department based on their data, and the latter is set by the board to achieve their goals — such as allowing more king salmon to escape and spawn.

If an optimal escapement goal is present, department staff say it takes precedence over their own sustainable escapement goals — that is the case for Kenai River king salmon.

Upper Cook Inlet Area Manager Colton Lipka spoke about the Upper Cook Inlet memo during a meeting of the Kenai/Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory Committee on Tuesday. He said that in almost every case the department is recommending no change to the goals. The one exception was in Anchorage’s Campbell Creek, which is only harvested by a small youth fishery.

In the case of Kenai River king salmon, which are based only on large fish greater than 34 inches long, the memo says that they recommend no change to the goals because the population has not changed significantly since the goal was set in 2017. Kenai and Kasilof River sockeye salmon, too, were recommended for no change.

Lipka said that Kasilof River king salmon weren’t evaluated this year because their life cycle hasn’t had the time to develop since they were last examined.

A similar memo was published for the Lower Cook Inlet, which recommended raising the sustainable escapement goal for king salmon in the Ninilchik River based on updated historical escapement counts developed with an increased understanding of the spawning area for the salmon in that river.

The Board of Fisheries Work Session is scheduled for Oct. 12 and 13 in Anchorage. The board will meet to discuss changes to fishing regulations in Cook Inlet and on the Kenai Peninsula early next year.

To view the full memorandums, visit

Reach reporter Jake Dye at